Thinning the herd!

I love reading and collect model railroad magazines.  Its hard for me to pass one up.  I’ve tried to kick the habit but I can’t do it.  So what is the problem you say?

I’m out of space.  Something has to give. Especially if I’m going to have a model railroad.

My decision – Cut them up! Keep the articles I want and put the rest in the recycle bin.  What to keep?  Anything two-foot of course, but much more.  I like like lots of modeling, prototypes, scales, gauges…I will model other stuff than SR&RL.  Yes I will….so the more includes quality drawings, model building articles, painting, scenery,industries…..track plans,lots of them, operations articles, ….


In the photo above is the station where I slice and dice.  Tools are a sharp knife, straight edge, cutting pad and stapler.  On left is box of mags waiting surgery.  A stack of cut up mags is at top.  Right of the pad are the most recently extracted articles.  The full stack of extractions (MR 1970-1990’s) is the stack at upper right.  What was 3 shelves (7-8 linear feet) has been reduced to a 9″ stack.

The hardest part is having to choose between two desired articles that share a common page.  In the end I free my mind with “there is no wrong choice.  You’ve not read these articles in years and likely will never need either…”. With that I pick and move on.


I’m now cutting up MR’s in the 2000’s.  I’m considering if I should cut all the way to present or let the most recent years remain whole.  After MR’s will be NMRA & RMC.  Some specialty mags and annuals will likely remain whole.

Next time organizing, storing, and use.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Some interruptions are all-right

I’ve been struggling to make progress on my preparations for the NMRA National Convention.  But when my son and his buddy Clarke expressed interest in the trains I made every effort to give them an enjoyable experience.

I think they got interested when they heard me testing a TCS WowSound decoder (sadly, not in a locomotive….but that is another story).  I told them they could run a loco but without sound, but that did not seem to damper their enthusiasm.

After a short time, I got them setup up with my WW&F #7, a few cars to couple and boxes to stand on.  They then connected the three cars and started the train around the layout.  When they got to South Strong Junction, I challenged them by suggesting they drop off the middle car from their train.  It was fun to seem their brains go to work after they dropped backed into the siding with all three cars….But like olde heads or was it an old married couple that did not give up and go the job done.

The moment only lasted for 10-15 minutes, but it was the highlight of my weekend.  They are only nine once…So I try to take it in!  Here is a photo of the Sn2 Kids in action.

The Sn2 Kids at work in Bigelow

The Sn2 Kids at work in Bigelow

Posted in Visitors | 3 Comments

Sn2 coupler gauge

Here is my coupler gauge, built from a stack of styrene.  The tongue sticking out to the right can be used to gauge the height of the mount.  The tongue is the proper 18″ height for the body and should just slide under the coupler mounting location.

To the left if a mounted coupler for comparing mounted couplers.  The KD 714 is the standard coupler used for all of my rolling stock.

Sn2 coupler and mounting gauge

Sn2 coupler and mounting gauge

Having all of my couplers mounted at the same height will improve reliability of operation.  My trains operate most on modules which always seems to have minor humps at the module joints.  There is just no way to make the modules 100% flat cross all joints, thus uncouples can happen at the joints.

Posted in Operations | Leave a comment

Committed…the modules stand…

Sometimes it takes a major commitment to make progress.  The fear of letting others down  causes us to get it done!

So what did I get done?  Sufficient progress on the railroad room to allow me to set up the modules, and set them up I did.  They have been connected and leveled.  Track put in, DCC setup and vacuumed!  Yes, vacuumed to clean off layers of saw dust, so that they resemble Maine more than Arizona.  It feels good to have trains running again….

Sn2 modules cleaned up, running, and ready improvements

Sn2 modules cleaned up, running, and ready improvements

So what was the motivating commitment you ask?  2014 NMRA National Convention (Train Show) in Cleveland, OH….The Sn2 crew will be there in full!  It should be our largest setup up yet.

With a commitment, comes a todo list….More on that in future posts!

Posted in Events, Free-mo, NMRA | 1 Comment

Historic List of Plans

Looking for a plans of a Maine 2-Footer? The Maine On2 FAQ has posted a historical listing for each of the railroads.  Follow the links to find the plans you want!

A few other reference links are also posted on the FAQ

Posted in Drawings and Plans | Leave a comment

Maine On2 FAQ

Terry Smith and a few others have re-created a new and better Maine On2 FAQ.  The FAQ was published by Bill Kerr from 2000 till 2012.  In 2013 Terry Smith and others with the support of Bill brought the content back the web for all to see.  Terry’s team has re-organized the information and enhancing it with more photos.

The web site is more than “modeling the Maine Two-Footers in On2″ it is also a place to find general modeling information such as this post “What are the Maine Two-Footers” and this post “Right of Way, trackwork, ties, and ballast”.  It’s a resource for anyone modeling the Maine 2-Footers or narrow gauge.

The contributors are a who’s who of On2 modelers and Maine 2-Foot historians.  Be sure to go to the “home” page to see links by contributor, railroad, manufacturer, modelers.

Bill Kerr passed away in the summer of 2013 after battling health issues for a few years.  I will miss his presence on the Maine 2-Foot modeling forums.  Bill and I had shared information on the SR&RL several times.  I never got to visit his On2 SR&RL, but from the photos, I can tell it was a delight.  You can see Bill’s On2 SR&RL on the Maine On2 FAQ.

Thanks Bill and thanks Terry and Co. the new Maine On2 FAQ is a tribute to Bill.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

To CAD or not to CAD? That is the question when starting a track plan

This week on the yahoogroup Maine-Two-Foot-Modelers-Forum Lee Rainey wrote:  “I strongly recommend a CAD program as a layout design tool.”  The statement made me ask, “Do I strongly recommend CAD for layout design?”

First of all, I use a XTrkCAD for track planning.  So before I make a recommendation, let me share why I use XTrkCAD.


  • It’s Free! – I use XTrkCAD 3.1.4 which is available in the files section of the XTrkCad yahoo group – – You’ll have to join the group to access the files section.  If you try to use it, you’ll have to use the registration instructions in the same folder – “XTrkCad REGISTRATION INSTRUCTIONS.txt”
  • XTrkCAD 3.1.4 runs on all my PC laptops including my old XP system.  Although the help no longer works on Windows7 (I’m told there is a way to get around that).  Newer open source versions exist too.  4.0.3 seems to be available in the same folder in the yahoo group.  I think it supports other OS’s too.  I think the 3.1.4 version was the last production version by Sillub Technologies.  To get started with later versions try the Wiki
  • Easily enforce Minimum Radius – XTrkCAD has a minimum radius for a layout, when set, any radius less than that value is highlighted.  It’s easy to set a value or larger when inserting curves.
  • Tools to create and insert turnouts – XTrkCAD has pre-defined turnouts or the user can create their own.  I created my own for Sn2.  This ensured accuracy.  I even created special turnouts (shorter straight on the end) so that I could insert turnouts that conform to angle but are modified as I’d modify to install in tight locations.  I use these smaller versions often, and this ensures I have proper dimension through the frogs.  On paper designs it’s easy to cheat on turnout dimensions and create an plan that cannot be built.
  • Easements – XTrkCAD supports easements, and they can be automatic on all curves.
  • Smart Connection of Track – XTrkCAD has the ability to connect track in many ways.  It can connect snap track, it can tangentially connect two tracks and cut off the ends on the fly, it can extend turnouts linearly  it can bend the end of a track, it can split track.  All of these are smart because the CAD tool is Model Railroad specific.
  • Concept diagrams (like John Armstrong’s squares) are easy to do.  For example these concepts I did for Gary White’s Sn2 K&DR (Concepts) or my own Dream Sn2 SR&RL layout (Concept #2 or Concept #6)
  • XTrkCAD can connect modules as I did to generate designs for the Sn2 Crew Layouts (Hickory or St. Louis).  A free-mo setup like this requires trial an error to optimize the setup to fit a specific space.
  • XTrkCAD can calculate grades – This is crucial when creating multi-deck layouts and wanting to determine the impact of having level towns vs. graded towns etc…  See this example image of grade chart generated from one of the concepts for my Sn2 SR&RL.
  • It’s for Designing Model Railroads – In my job, I have access to many high end CAD systems with full drafting.  However, I’d never use them to design a model railroad as they are not tuned for that.  Doing the features I mention above would be time consuming if not impossible on these 10-30 thousand Mechanical CAD systems.

Other Features Of Interest

  • Print Full-Size – XTrkCAD can print the layout full size to many sheets of paper that can be laid on benchwork or plywood or other.  I usually do not use such a method (possibly because i’m against wasting the paper).  Instead I transfer visually making tweaks as required.
  • Full-Size Triangulation – XTrkCAD does not support this, but I think 3rd Planit does.  It is possible to fix two points in the room, and 3PI will calculate the distance of any other point from those two.  Having this would make it easier to transfer designs.
  • 3D Scenery – XTrkCAD does not support 3D scenery, but 3PI and other model railroad CAD packages do.  I see 3D in my head and would prefer to build the scenery rather than design it in detail.  I will do 2D scenery, which XTrkCAD does support and I often enhance using Paint or other programs.
  • Structures – It is possible to make footprints of a structure and reuse that in any design.  Some HO structures are already available.  3D structure might be possible, but I’ve not explored that.  I think the other packages such as 3PI support 3D structures
  • 3D Benchwork and Walk Through’s – Like 3D scenery, not supported by XTrkCAD, but 3PI does support (possibly others too).  Again, I’m not that interested in a 3D walk through.


  • I think the points about XTrkCAD above explain the benefits I get from using model railroad track planing software.
  • Additionally, I often do track planning for others.  Thus I can reuse the skills learned to make a pretty plan for someone else.


  • The justification of using CAD to design a model railroad is an individual choice.
  • I do not recommend it for beginners.  The software does not help them figure out what they want (often the greatest problem for a newbie.
  • Success will depend on CAD tool selected and time one is willing to put into learning the tool.  Expect 20-40 hours of learning.  For small layouts, simple layouts, or one-time designs the effort to learn a CAD tool may not be worth it.
  • The more complex the project the more benefit the CAD tool can provide.
  • If you prefer paper and pencil than use it!
  • If you like designing full-size on the layout or on the floor, then do it!
  • If you hate or fight with computers do not use CAD.
  • No matter how much CAD work is done some redesign will occur during construction of the layout.  Each person will have a different threshold on how far to take a design (time/money)
  • Some modelers might be better off getting someone else to help them with the CAD design or even to pay someone else to do the CAD design.  Byron Henderson, Yard Goat, Lance Mindheim all might be provide such services.

For me, CAD has it’s place so I use it (concepts, figuring what will likely fit).  But CAD is not my end all design technique.  I expect final tweaking to occur as I build or after.  I say after, because one may want to make changes after operating the layout.

Posted in Trackplanning, XTrkCAD | 2 Comments